How Much is a College Degree Worth?

Average Salaries Listed by Degree

Group of graduates with diplomas on university campus (differential focus)
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The evidence is clear, the more you learn, the more you earn. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Current Population Survey (2014) reports the average salary for workers age 25 and over based on the education level that they have attained. 

How Much is a College Degree Worth?

Even though the average salary increases significantly based on degree level, keep in mind that these figures only capture general averages and will not hold true in all cases.

Be careful to evaluate the salary implications for acquiring a particular degree based on your unique strengths and geographic location prior to enrolling.  

For example, a young woman with a strong mechanical aptitude who struggles with traditional academics might earn more pursuing an apprentice position as a plumber than by acquiring a bachelor's degree.

Average Salaries Listed by Degree

  • Individuals who did not complete high school: $25,376
  • High School Diploma: $34,736
  • Some college: $38,532
  • Associates Degree: $41,184
  • Four Year Degree: $57,252
  • Masters Degree: $68,952
  • Doctoral Degree: $82,732
  • Professional Degree: $85,228

Salaries for Jobs Which Require Degrees

Job search engine took a look at job postings to determine how many organizations that are hiring require an advanced degree, and what the salary differential is for various levels of education.

Here's what the results shows of June 20, 2015:

  • Jobs requiring a Bachelor's degree paid an average salary of $65,000
  • Jobs  requiring a Master's degree paid an average salary of $82,000
  • Jobs requiring a PhD paid an average salary is $97,000 
  • Jobs requiring an MBA paid an average salary is $95,000

To recap, each degree beyond a Bachelor's is worth about $15,000, however, there are fewer job postings for applicants with advanced degrees.

Educational Level and Unemployment

Another way to gauge the value of a degree is to examine the unemployment rate for individuals possessing that credential.  According to BLS data compiled in 2014, the unemployment rates by educational level were as follows:

  • Individuals who did not complete high school: 9%
  • High School Diploma: 6%
  • Some College: 6%
  • Associates Degree: 4.5%
  • Four Year Degree: 3.5%
  • Masters Degree: 2.8%
  • Doctoral Degree: 2.1%
  • Professional Degree: 1.9%

Related Articles: Education Level and Employment | What is Degree Inflation | Salaries for Jobs: A - Z List

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